Kolkata, July 18 (IANS) Freedom fighter and CPI-M leader Samar Mukherjee, the party's oldest living member whose 100th birthday was celebrated in November last year, died here Thursday. He was a bachelor.
Mukherjee, who was widely admired for his spartan lifestyle and parliamentary elegance, was admitted Wednesday night to a hospital with breathing problems.
"He passed away this morning at around 10," said Rabin Deb of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, which Mukherjee joined in 1964 following the split in the undivided Communist Party of India.
Mukherjee moved to the CPI-M's "commune" in south Kolkata's Dilkhusha Street in 1965, where he was the sole occupant in his last days.
Describing Mukherjee as "a most exceptional, outstanding and dedicated" communist leader, the CPI-M politburo in a statement highlighted his "rare qualities".
"Rarely have we seen such an individual who sacrificed all personal interests, living a spartan life in a party commune in the service of the party. He was affable, easily accessible and loved by the people."
Even political opponents were effusive in their praise.
Trinamool Congress leader Sougata Roy, who was a member of the Charan Singh ministry when Mukherjee was in the Lok Sabha, said: "I have seen him from close range. He was dignified, decent, civil, a thorough gentleman."
State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya called him "knowledgeable and soft spoken".
"Despite our ideological differences, I had the highest regard and respect for him. His death is a loss not only to the CPI-M, but for the entire political fraternity."
Born at Amta in Howrah district Nov 7, 1913 - exactly four years before Lenin took power in Russia - the articulate Mukherjee represented Howrah in the Lok Sabha for three consecutive terms between 1971 and 1984.
CPI-M leaders said Mukherjee represented a generation of Communist leaders who renounced comforts, were wedded to Marxism and loyal to the party.
He rose to become the party's leader in the Lok Sabha and parliament. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1986. Earlier, he was a member of the West Bengal assembly from 1957 to 1971.
Mukherjee was dismissed from school for protesting against the Simon Commission and was jailed for taking part in the civil disobedience movement. He completed his studies later.
Mukherjee joined the CPI in 1940. He joined the CPI-M in 1964.
Mukherjee served the party in a variety of roles. At different times, he was general secretary of its labour wing CITU, headed its refugee arm, besides being a member of the politburo and the central committee.
He also chaired for long the party's disciplinary body, the Central Control Commission.
Known for his simple and spartan lifestyle, Mukherjee left his family in 1940 to live in a party commune in Howrah.
In November last year, the party organised a rare function to felicitate Mukherjee on his 100th birthday when it released his biography and a book of tribute.
The body will be donated to a hospital as per his wish.